“We shall not be moved, like a tree that’s standing by the water side, we shall not be moved.” There is a powerful spiritual anthem with roots in the civil rights movement called“We Shall Not Be Moved”that expresses the struggles of those fighting for their freedoms. The single line, “We shall not…we shall not be moved” is sung over and over, emphasizing the emphatic resilience of those who were seeking to defend their human rights and earnest commitment to stand their ground in the face of injustice. What I love lyrically is the simple repetition. It leaves the listener with a single phrase cemented in your head: We Shall Not Be Moved.
What moves you? We hear people say, “That song really moved me,” or “Wow, that speech was so moving.” We look for the emotional connection in these moments -- something that stirs within, sparks new insights, channels our dreams, or gives us the fresh motivation to believe, work for or do something. Some are moved more easily than others – emotionally or circumstantially. Put in a different way, you may be easily swayed by fear right now. But there is an incredible difference between these. Being moved -- and being easily swayed -- is the difference between healthy vulnerability, and floundering indecision and anxiety; the difference between standing on the rock, or the sand.
Right now, there are countless channels through which we can be moved, telling us what we should think or know. Social media. News. Pop culture. Political movements. Religion. Friends. Newspapers. We can moved broadly by other things, too. Trials. Travel. Brands. Documentaries. Culinary experiences. Live music. Death and loss. Testimony. Social justice movements. An incredible moment. A single person.
Only you know what moves you -- as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But, when we are stuck in a wilderness -- when we simply cannot move -- like right now - wondering when God will take us out from our collective desert, our stillness, thirst, our pain, our long-stretch circumstances, the mundane – there is an opportunity to practice not being moved in our faith. To literally practice the discipline of anchoring ourselves to the tree of life. Scripture points to this metaphor over and over:
Blessed is the one that trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit (Jer 17:8-9) And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bring forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper (Ps 1:3)
Through the steadfast love of the Lord, we shall not moved (Ps 21)
The Lord is my Keeper; He will not let you be moved (Ps 121)
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved (Ps 125)
He will never allow the righteous to be moved / shaken (Ps 55)
We are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken/moved (Heb 12:28)
I have set the Lord always before me -- He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken (Ps 16)
God is in her midst; He will help her at break of day; she shall not be moved (Ps 46)
To not be moved doesn’t mean we are sitting around idly waiting for our circumstances to change. We may be confined to our physical spaces, but we are not confined in our creativity, worship, love and faith. To not be moved means you are not swayed, shaken, swept away from the source of your faith and the assurance of provision. In James 1, we read that someone with weak faith, who is easily swayed, is like “a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” James says this person is unstable. Why? Because he is easily influenced by others, his own feelings, and external factors. But, when we truly are rooted in the steadfast love of the Lord, we are not moved. We are not easily shaken by the temptations, difficulties, and mind games swirling around in our heads and hearts. We are not frozen by fear. Rather, we stand firmly rooted in the Lord, and in the Kingdom that cannot be shaken.
We have all had these moments in our lives – pandemic or otherwise - when everything seems to be falling to the wayside. A relationship, a job, a reputation, a loved one lost, a house, an investment, sickness, a crisis, an expectation or a dream not coming to fruition. And when our freedoms, sources of security and identity come crashing down -- we stand in the desert, with the wind swirling around us -- and have every reason to be shaken. Your world has shattered. Your love has been taken away. Injustice has been done. Your dream has failed. We stand raw and exposed, wondering who is ‘keeping us’ (Psalm 121)
There is an answer to this. Jeremiah 17 says that there is a way for the leaves of our lives to stay green in drought -- that there is a way to bear fruit when we are abiding in perplexing, parched places. The way is to peel our eyes on the good. If our only question during this global crisis is, “when will I come out?” we will struggle with reality, idealize the past or the future, and try to break the sovereign pause in our lives. In fact, in Jeremiah 17, it says when we do this, “we shall not see any good come.” In other words, we’ll be blind to today's blessing, today's gift - as if the real living were around the corner. Can you imagine walking down the street, texting someone, head down, and as you are walking down the sidewalk, someone walks by you with a check for a million dollars. He extends it to you in passing, and because you’re not looking, you miss receiving it - you didn't see any good come! It is lost, the person keeps walking by, and you miss out on the blessing. This is absurd -- anyone in their right mind would say you’re an idiot for not being watchful.
But this is the hard truth. If we are not being watchful in prayer, with our eyes and hearts looking up to the source of good, we will not see any good come amidst this bazaar crisis. But, if we rest secure in whatever the Lord has us, whether we get sick or not, believing it is full of promise and purpose, we will see the good in all circumstances and know it has true purpose (Romans 8). It may not feel good. It may not even be the good we have asked God to provide. But, there will be internal good that comes out of it - change within our own hearts during drought.
Perhaps, deep down, what we really all want is to not be moved. To stand in the ocean storm, smiling, because: “while all around my soul doth sway, He then is all my hope and stay; on Christ, the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” I am sometimes tempted to be shaken. To panic. To fear. To feel lonely. But it is exactly here where I - where we - can most effectively pan for gold. For the eternal good that God has prepared for us to receive. For the glory that transforms our earthly bodies and circumstances even here on earth.
Job suffered and came out with gold. He lost everything, wrestled in the waiting. Job had every reason to be moved, to move on from believing and trusting God, to move ahead and away from waiting on the Lord. But he chose to not be moved in the face of complete suffering and loss. And this is what he says:
“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But He knows the way I take; and when He has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside. For he is unchangeable, and who can turn Him back? What He desires, that he does. For He will complete what He appoints for me, and many such things are in his mind. Therefore...I am not silenced because of thick darkness covering my face.” (Job 23)
For such a time as this - we are here. And I am convinced that the same God who told the Israelites to pitch their tent (Numbers 9:7, Deuteronomy 1:30, Exodus 13:17-22), is the same God who rescued His people out from Egypt. He is the same God who led His people through the Red Sea. He is the same God who struck the rock for water. He is the same God who sent down manna from heaven, each day, in the portion His people needed - not more or less. And the same God who is asking us to camp and pitch our tents right now, is the One who took His people safely to the promised land, step by step.
Fear not, friends. Our Father knows the cloud covering, where we have pitched our tents, and is aware of all of our circumstances, needs, and hopes. He is our Keeper forever, watching our going out and coming in, from this time forth and forevermore (Ps 121). So, do not be moved -- He is fighting for each of us and our families tonight - we need only be still (Exodus 14).
"Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; but wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel camped." - Numbers 9.
Emily Jansen is a marketing, communications and philanthropic
expert with more than a dozen years of national and international
experience in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Today, Emily
leads marketing communications efforts for Deloitte’s citizenship,
think tank and foundation departments from Washington, D.C.
In 2018, Emily worked in Seoul, Korea, conducting global public affairs
and philanthropy projects across multiple continents. In 2009, Emily
spent a year volunteering in East Africa through mentorship of high
school girls at the Rift Valley Academy boarding school in Kijabe, Kenya
and conducting micro-finance initiatives with female entrepreneurs
in the local community.
Today, Emily is an active volunteer and committee member for
Fisher House Foundation , Lily of the Valley Endeavor (LoVE) in South Africa,
and sits as an advisor on the board of She Saves a Nation, which supports marginalized women in Kenya.
Emily has her B.A. from University of Maryland and Masters of Science
in Marketing and Branding from Johns Hopkins University Business
Carey School. Emily is an avid triathlete, pianist, poet, and aunt.